Saturday, 5 April 2008

Why did the BNP do so well? Where next?

Since the election result in Wellingborough last week I have been thinking about why the BNP vote was high (at around 15%) and why Labour were knocked down to third position, behind the BNP. This has also raised wider concerns about the direction we as a society are taking.

The BNP put a great deal of time and effort into this election campaign - with at least two leaflets distributed and evidence of a considerable amount of face-to-face canvassing. The only other party to put in the equivalent or more activity were the Tories (who won the election convincingly and overwhelmingly). The BNP, as might be expected, were less than truthful in their election information – playing on and lying around immigration/migration, race (without overtly referring to it), new housing developments in and around Northamptonshire, crime, anti-social behaviour and Islamaphobia.

For a critic of the BNP’s racist campaign in Wellingborough you can do no worse than have a look at Tony Sharp’s blog. Whilst Tony (a fellow Wellingborough Councillor and a Tory) and I disagree about almost everything else, we clearly share a deep hatred of what the BNP stand for and the lies they propagate:

The Labour Party stood no chance of winning this election, and it showed. They put very little into the campaign other than to distribute leaflets. The same was true of the other parties (the Greens, Lib Dems and UKIP) – they also did next to nothing and (to be honest) showed a degree of contempt for the electorate in standing candidates and then doing little to present themselves as credible candidates/parties. This is a recipe for those who want to register a protest vote of sorts, against the government or whatever, to vote BNP rather than for anyone else. And they did.

Whilst it was right for ant-fascists to campaign against the BNP and expose what they stood for, we probably unintentionally contributed to an increased BNP vote as we draw attention to the fact that they were really the only opposition to the Tories that were standing. Effective anti-BNP work is also dependent on having effective and credible political parties for people to vote for, other than the BNP!
The BNP were also able to capitalise on the growing trend to be “concerned” about the "white working class" – as exemplified by the recent BBC series. This is an interesting one, since when has anyone (other than the genuine left and the trade union movement) really been concerned about the injustices and inequalities faced by the working class.

Until recently (when "class" has been mysterious rediscovered), the right and middle of British politics (including the Tories and “New” Labour) have been concerned about the so-call “middle classes” and the “middle ground” of British politics. New Labour has been correctly identified as deserting its traditional concerns with class inequalities and injustices. In reality, New Labour has deserted the working class as a whole, irrespective of its race, gender, ethnicity or religion.

What the BNP convenient ignores, of course, is that the most exploited and disadvantaged sections of the working class are migrant workers and ethnic minority communities. Setting the “white” working class against these other communities (who are equally or more exploited) is hardly going to make things better – it does what it says in the small print: it pits those who are most disadvantaged and exploited against one another, whilst the rich and super-rich continue to enjoy the fruits of others people’s hard work.

The BNP (and others for that matter) also attempt to “blame” such minority and migrant communities for Britain’s problems. Not only is this deceitful – most, if not all, of these problems pre-date the arrival of recent EU migrant workers - but also reflects a very distorted view of history, even recent history. For Wellingborough, and indeed the wider UK, the benefits of immigration/migration over the past 50 years from India, the Caribbean, Pakistan, Bangladesh (not least Londoners as well!) has been of huge benefit – socially, economically and culturally.

We are now a successful multi-racial/religious/ethnic society (town), of which we can be immensely proud. Yes, there are stresses around these issues; but these should be seen as internal “family” problems and misunderstandings that need to be worked through. They do not fundamentally undermine the fabric of society, contrary to much reporting on the issue (and the views of the BNP). A return to some mythical White, British, society without migration/immigration is not on the agenda. Unless, like the BNP, we want to see immense social upheaval, strife, gross human rights abuses and inter-community violence on a scale that cannot be imagined.

The models are already there: the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Iraq, Kenya…. Do we really want to add the UK to the list of coutries that practice ethnic cleansing on a grand scale?


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